Two pieces of good news for European sharks were announced yesterday. The European Union signed the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Memorandum of Understanding for sharks. This MOU was established last year to support the conservation of seven shark species which regularly migrate between national boundaries, a list which includes great whites and whale sharks.
Also, the European Commission introduced a proposal to close some loopholes in the existing European Union ban on shark finning at sea. If the proposed amendment passes, any European Union fishing vessel anywhere on Earth would need to land sharks with their fins attached. This amendment faces strong opposition from Spain, the third largest shark fishing nation in the world, but is strongly supported by scientists and conservationists. The debate is expected to least several months, and we’ll be sure to let you know how you can help when it reaches its next phase.
“Today the EU has taken two major steps for sharks that demonstrate continued progress in European policy and offer new hope for safeguarding these vulnerable species on a global scale,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, who is attending the CMS meeting. “We call on the EU Council and Parliament to promptly adopt the European Commission‟s finning ban proposal and encourage all fishing nations to fully engage in ensuring CMS shark conservation initiatives succeed.”
Coho salmon - public domain image
In 2008, a deadly virus decimated Chilean aquaculture facilities, causing $2 billion in damage and crippling an industry. This week, preliminary reports suggest that this same disease may have infected wild salmon in the north Pacific. The internet has been blowing up with news reports of Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) detected in wild salmon populations. Reports range from balanced - Deadly Fish Farm Virus Found in Wild Pacific Salmon – to hyperbolic - B.C.’s salmon feedlots need to be closed – but all hinge on the fact that ISA, a lethal salmon-infecting virus previously resigned to aquaculture facilities, has been detected in wild salmon populations in British Columbia. This has the potential to be a very big deal. ISA is 90% lethal and mortality occurs in 10 days or less. The virus is waterborn, but can also be transmitted through handling with contaminated equipment. There is no treatment once a fish is infected.
Before I go on, a couple points need to be clarified:
- ISA does not infect humans, though as it threatens a fishery and a major agricultural industry, it most certainly affects humans.
- ISA was isolated from 2 wild sockeye salmon. It has not been confirmed from independent test yet, although one statement indicates that the current infection is from a non-infectious strain of ISA (which raises some interesting questions about who currently knows what about this outbreak).
Continue reading Salmon, aquaculture, and the spread of Infectious Salmon Anemia
My lab, the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami, will be hosting a series of Twitter teach-ins on marine biology and conservation topics. Each teach-in will cover a topic in a series of Tweets, including links to photos and videos, as well as NGO reports, blog posts, and scientific papers which people can read to find more information. I will RT important points from my Twitter account (@WhySharksMatter), but the teach-in itself will take place from the RJ Dunlap program’s Twitter account (@RJ_Dunlap) and include hashtag #RJDTeachIn.
I encourage anyone interested in participating in the teach-in to follow (and encourage your friends, colleagues, and Twitter followers to follow) @RJ_Dunlap. I also encourage people to RT important points for their own followers.
Each teach-in will take approximately 20-30 minutes. Following each teach-in, there will be an opportunity for anyone to ask us questions. We will answer any question that people ask us.
The topic of the first RJD teach-in, which will take place Monday at 1:00 EST, will be overfishing. Future topics will include invasive species,bycatch, seafood sustanability, marine protected areas, shark biology and conservation, sea turtle biology and conservation, ecotourism, and more- stay tuned! Additionally, if you have a topic you’d like to hear more about, let us know in the comments section of this post and we may host a teach-in about it.
The mission of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program is to “advance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) literacy and marine conservation by combining cutting edge research and outreach activities”, and we hope that these Twitter teach-ins will help us to advance that mission. I hope that you’ll follow along with the first teach-in Monday at 1 EST, and I hope that you’ll encourage your followers to do the same.
At the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress, Dr. Nick Dulvy and the IUCN Shark Specialist Group organized a special symposium called “Securing the Conservation of Sharks and Rays”. This symposium featured leading scientists, international policy experts, the founder of a creative non-profit, a National Geographic conservation photographer… and me. It was, without a doubt, the greatest professional honor of my (admittedly brief so far) career.
Continue reading Securing the Conservation of Sharks and Rays
Last week, I previewed the annual NAFO meeting. Two elasmobranch conservation measures (reducing the Total Allowable Catch for thorny skates to the level that the scientific council recommended and requiring fishermen to report the species of the sharks they catch) were to be discussed. That meeting is now concluded, and the results, while not surprising, are disappointing. The Total Allowable Catch for thorny skates was reduced to 8500 metric tons, but is still higher than the 5000 metric tons recommended by the scientific council. Fishermen will now be required to report the “broad category” of sharks they catch, but not species.
“Although we are pleased that the NAFO skate quota will no longer be twice as high as scientists advise, it is still deeply disappointing to witness another year of the European Union and Canada putting the interests of their fishermen above their conservation commitments and the long-term health of exceptionally vulnerable populations,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International.
Grading the players
The U.S. proposed and supported both policy changes. A
The European Union was only willing to support a 5,000 metric ton TAC if the fishery changed to free-for-all derby style fishing (which could result in EU fishermen getting the entire quota and not just a share of it). C-
Canada suggested slowly phasing in the new quota over the course of 2 years. C-
Bonus player grade: Japan was the only party that objected to fishermen having to report the species of shark that they caught. F.
Later today, the annual meeting of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The marine conservation world should pay close attention. NAFO made history in 2004 by becoming the first regional fisheries management organization to set a shared quota for a shark, skate, or ray fishery, but the future of that legacy is in question.
Continue reading All eyes on Halifax: Will fishery managers follow scientific recommendations to protect the thorny skate?
In response to new analyses estimating that greater numbers of some skate species can be safely fished, the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed an “emergency” increase in the catch limit for the Northeast Skate Complex Fishery. While its good news that some skate populations may be doing well enough to support increased fishing, this doesn’t tell the whole story of the Northeast Skate Complex.
Continue reading Proposed fishery increase could harm critically endangered thorny skates
Photo credit: Jessica King, Marine Photobank
Earlier today, the California legislature voted to approve AB 376, the excitingly titled “act to add section 2021 to the Fish and Game Code, relating to sharks”. The ocean conservation community is happy, and we should be. The bill and its backing from Hollywood stars have generated substantial media coverage of the plight of sharks, and, if signed into law by the Governor and properly enforced, it could well save a lot of sharks. However, fin bans aren’t the perfect solution to the shark conservation crisis, and we still have a lot of work to do to protect sharks and closely related species around the world.
Continue reading Hooray for California, but there’s still much work to be done to save sharks
Bonnethead sharks have always occupied a special place in my heart (and in the photo of myself that I use for Southern Fried Science). These animals, a member of the hammerhead family, are some of the most abundant sharks along the coast of the Southeastern United States. While the IUCN Shark Specialist Group rates bonnetheads as “Least Concern”, the assessment noted that these sharks are subjected to heavy commercial and recreational fishing pressure.
Continue reading World’s oldest known bonnethead shark captured in South Carolina!